David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!


“There are times when you’d swear they have a 20 man pitching staff,” 

 

Hair on Fire

June 28, 2015 by Peter Gammons 

 

Four days from July, and the Tampa Bay Rays are still in first place. The Rays who lost Alex Cobb for the season, have had Matt Moore on rehab the entire time, are now without Jake Odorizzi and Drew Smyly, are 13th in the American League and have started rookies in 35 games. With Joe Maddon in Chicago, Andrew Friedman in Los Angeles and a spooky garage of a ballpark on an island which draws more than 20 percent fewer fans than any other team in the game.

And, worth repeating, they are the first place Rays.

They have the best pitcher in the league at this point in Chris Archer. Kevin Cash, to the surprise of no one who knows him, has done a brilliant job manipulating shifts and his pitching, limiting most of his starters in their exposure to lineups, while using the one look bullpen for more innings than any other pen. “There are times when you’d swear they have a 20 man pitching staff,” says one opposing manager. “I have no idea how he keeps all those relievers fresh, but he does it.”

“The players have maintained a tremendous focus on grinding through games every day,” says Cash. In their first 42 wins, the Rays won ten times when they scored two or fewer runs in the regulation nine innings. They won a game against the most dynamic offense in the league, the Blue Jays, 1-0 in 12 innings. From June 4-7, they went into Safeco Field and played a four game series with the Mariners that went 2-1, 1-0, 1-2, 3-1.

In a 4-1 win against the Red Sox Saturday night, Brandon Guyer was 0-for-1 with two walks, a hit-by-pitch and two steals. This spring San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told Rockies manager Walt Weiss that one of the keys to the Spurs’ traditional success is “having a core of players who are over themselves.”

Archer is emerging as a star. No ego. Evan Longoria has been a part of the Rays core since he arrived in 2008, and he has never been about being Evan Longoria.

But ask anyone around the Rays and no one better personifies them than Kevin Kiermaier. “He is one of the best players in the game,” says Cash. “Maybe few people realize it, but he’s a great player, no matter what numbers they flash on the scoreboard.”

Kiermaier is 25 years old and a former 31st round draft pick. He never showed up on any “prospects” list. But last season, when he was recalled for good from Durham and the Rays were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, then first base coach George Hendrick called a position player meeting and told the players, “why don’t all of you go out every day, watch the kid and play like him.”

The kid, of course, was Kiermaier. “I couldn’t believe what he said,” says Kiermaier. “But I was very proud. Here’s a major league coach singling me out for the way I play the game. It was something I’ll never forget.” Especially when he was 5-foot-4 and 130 pounds as a high school freshman trying out for his team. Or a guy who was actually better known in high school as a free safety, then had to go to a junior college in Illinois before getting drafted in the 31st round.

He is the definition of “playing with his hair on fire,” which simple put, means he plays like a maniac. “As soon as he hits the ball, he bursts out of the box thinking double.” That was what George Brett always did. So does Bryce Harper.

Kiermaier gets rug burns on turf, runs into fences. Teammates joke that when he pulls into the parking lot at The Trop, the hair is ablaze. “You watch the Rays play and Kiermaier sets the tone for everyone on the team,” says one National League evaluator. “The energy he brings and the energy rubs off on his teammates is really important to a team that plays all those 1-0, 2-1 games.” 1-0, 2-1 games in front of a scattering of friends, family and curiosity seekers.

Between Cash and his coaches, the argument is thrown around that not only should Kiermaier get to Cincinnati for the All-Star Game, but he should merit consideration for a midseason spot on a top ten MVP list. “He’s the best defensive outfielder in the game,” says Cash. “Shotgun for an arm. When you’re around him every day, you appreciate that what he brings to the team every day is incredible.”

Rolling onto Baseball-Reference, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs and whatever else we peruse every day, one finds:

–Kiermaier leads all of baseball in Defensive Runs Saved

–He is 7th in American League Position Player Wins Above Replacement, right after Miguel Cabrera and Manny Machado.

–He leads the majors in triples with 6

–He leads all major league players in Defensive War.

–The Rays actually keep a record of singles and doubles he turns into doubles and triples and this morning the count is up to seven, and first base coach Rocco Baldelli, who keeps the stat, points out that he’s yet to be thrown out. The only time in 9 attempts he was out stealing he over-slid the bag.

“He may not be as fast as a Billy Hamilton,” says one major league evaluator. “But he accelerates to top speed quicker than anyone in the game. That’s why he is so great in the outfield. That and the fact that he’s totally fearless and his hair’s always on fire.”

So, with all due respect to Kiermaier, I decided to do a Hair-on-Fire All-Star grouping, and polled about four dozen players, scouts, front office people for my Hair-on-Fire All-Stars. The most nominations:

–Two stars, Bryce Harper, Mike Trout. Ask Trout, and he’s most proud of the fact that in the last two years coach Dino Abel, who keeps every time, hasn’t gotten him from home-to-first slower that 4.0 seconds, a remarkable statistic considering that’s 230-something pounds moving that fast.

George Springer, who A.J. Hinch put in the leadoff spot to” put a governor” on him.

Kevin PillarDustin PedroiaYasiel PuigJosh DonaldsonJoc PedersonJose Altuve and, for the final position, Adam Eaton. Needed a catcher, and Salvador Perez won in a breeze.

What’s interesting is not only what the Rays feel Kiermaier’s fire brings to their tight-to-the-vest game, but when player and manager, coach, scout and evaluator mention the star level players like Harper and Trout, it is testament to baseball as it moves on in the post-PED, post-amphetamine era.

Watch the Astros and it’s Springer, Jose Altuve, Jake Marisnick and one of the best young players of this generation, Carlos Correa, who play with their hair on fire. Watch the Orioles and it’s Adam Jones. Watch the Royals, and it’s Perez. The Giants, when Hunter Pence is healthy.

Nothing against the players, but one of the oddest commercials in recent memory was the shampoo spot last season featuring C.J. Wilson and Josh Hamilton. Their hair looked good. Hair on Fire is the better look.

And if Kevin Kiermaier does end up on the All-Star Team and makes a cameo appearance, the PA should blare a little of Hendrix and “Let Me Stand Next to Your Fire.” Move over, Rover, and let Kevin take over.

http://www.gammonsdaily.com/peter-gammons-hair-on-fire/

 

"It happens all the time"

 

The Best Bargains of the Season So Far

by Owen Watson - June 26, 2015

Depending on whom you ask, a really fun or terrible thing is happening this season:Alex Rodriguez has been better than anyone expected. Perhaps he’s been waybetter than anyone expected. Thirty-nine-year-olds in the post-PED era aren’t supposed to have these kinds of seasons. Also of note, however: Alex Rodriguez is getting paid a lot of money: $22 million in 2015, to be exact. So, in this very surprising year that 39-year-old A-Rod is having, the question now becomes: has he been worth that much money so far? And, in the bigger picture: which players have been the best value so far in 2015, and which have been the worst?

The conventional wisdom with the sort of contract that Rodriguez has — the savagely long, payroll-sucking kind — is that they are sort of a wash at the end. A team pays for the production up front, back ends the deal, and secretly hopes they can offload the aging slugger or pitcher to another team at some point toward the end, eating a little of the annual contract when doing so.

It happens all the time: Boston is still paying Manny Ramirez; the Mets are still paying Bobby Bonilla (I thought I was crazy, but yeah, they still are, and will be forever). Obviously, that makes it really hard for the players to live up to their end of the deal in the final years, even though they aren’t complaining. We’ll get to A-Rod a little later, but for now, let’s look at the rest of the league.

For ease during this exercise, we’ll use the standard offseason free-agent value of a win — about $7.5 million. We can debate this figure, but it’s what we have, and we’re going to roll with it. Dave did great work in the past on the very issue of how much a win costs. We’ll then use that figure to discern how many wins a team is paying the player for at this point in the season (salary wins), and compare that to how many wins they’ve actually produced (WAR), to get surplus wins. We’ll use both Average Annual Valuation and 2015 salaries to see the differences.

We’ll also divide players into two groups: pre- and post-arbitration. Some veterans getting the league minimum will be placed into the former group for ease, while some technically pre-arbitration players who have signed deals with their teams will be placed into the latter.

Let’s jump in. First up, 2015 salaries — very simply, how much each team is paying players this year. Who is the biggest bargain so far this year among the post-arbitration crowd? Let’s have a look at a chart that compares overall WAR to surplus WAR (the WAR that each player’s team is essentially getting for free):

  

Well, this isn’t too much of a surprise. One finds almost entirely young, cost-controlled superstars, with the odd veteran who is earning his keep. Bryce Harperand Jason Kipnis have only been paid for .15 and .25 WAR by their teams this year, but they’ve put up a little bit more than that. This should also probably serve as a reminder that Todd Frazier is having a really great year, and remains undervalued. Here is a table, for those inclined to them:

Name

2015 Salary

Salary WAR (Through 6/26)

WAR

$/WIN (Through 6/26)

Surplus WAR

Bryce Harper

$2,500,000

0.15

5.1

$220,588.24

5.0

Jason Kipnis

$4,166,667

0.25

4.6

$407,608.73

4.3

Paul Goldschmidt

$3,100,000

0.19

4.3

$324,418.60

4.1

Todd Frazier

$3,750,000

0.23

4.1

$411,585.37

3.9

Mike Trout

$6,083,333

0.36

4.0

$684,374.96

3.6

Josh Donaldson

$4,300,000

0.26

3.8

$509,210.53

3.5

Giancarlo Stanton

$6,500,000

0.39

3.6

$812,500.00

3.2

Anthony Rizzo

$5,285,714

0.32

3.3

$720,779.18

3.0

Dee Gordon

$2,500,000

0.15

3.1

$362,903.23

3.0

Lorenzo Cain

$2,725,000

0.16

3.0

$408,750.00

2.8

Justin Turner

$2,500,000

0.15

2.9

$387,931.03

2.8

Logan Forsythe

$1,100,000

0.07

2.5

$198,000.00

2.4

Russell Martin

$7,000,000

0.42

2.8

$1,125,000.00

2.4

Brandon Crawford

$3,175,000

0.19

2.5

$571,500.00

2.3

Mike Moustakas

$2,640,000

0.16

2.4

$495,000.00

2.2

Matt Carpenter

$3,750,000

0.23

2.4

$703,125.00

2.2

Yoenis Cespedes

$10,500,000

0.63

2.7

$1,750,000.00

2.1

Andrew McCutchen

$10,208,333

0.61

2.6

$1,766,826.87

2.0

Miguel Cabrera

$22,000,000

1.32

3.3

$3,000,000.00

2.0

Danny Espinosa

$1,800,000

0.11

1.9

$426,315.79

1.8

Now, what about pre-arbitration? Let’s have a look at who is doing the most damage while only making the league minimum. For this, we’ll chart things a little differently, as we know everyone’s salary is the same (or very close to it). We’ll just look at cost per win vs. WAR:

 

Inexpensive wins! The bedrock of any successful team strategy. A lot of names we would expect to see here, and yet another reminder that A.J. Pollock probably should get way more credit than he does. With the amount of money the Dodgers have (and spend), it almost seems criminal they’re getting so many wins out of Joc Pederson for so little money. Here’s another table, for those who like them more than charts:

Name

WAR (Through 6/26)

$/WIN (Through 6/26)

Joc Pederson

3.6

$63,437.50

Manny Machado

3.0

$76,125.00

A.J. Pollock

3.0

$76,125.00

Nolan Arenado

2.8

$81,562.50

Kevin Kiermaier

2.8

$81,562.50

Joe Panik

2.8

$81,562.50

Stephen Vogt

2.8

$81,562.50

Brian Dozier

2.7

$84,583.33

Mookie Betts

2.3

$99,293.48

Charlie Blackmon

2.2

$103,806.82

Brock Holt

2.1

$108,750.00

George Springer

2.0

$114,187.50

Kolten Wong

2.0

$114,187.50

Jose Iglesias

2.0

$114,187.50

Xander Bogaerts

1.9

$120,197.37

Matt Duffy

1.8

$126,875.00

Adeiny Hechavarria

1.7

$134,338.24

Billy Hamilton

1.6

$142,734.38

Yasmani Grandal

1.6

$142,734.38

Derek Norris

1.6

$142,734.38

Let’s also tackle the other side of the spectrum — the worst values so far this year. I’m expecting to see one or two of those large, back-ended contracts we were speaking about earlier. Here is a chart of the players with the worst surplus WAR (actual WAR minus salary WAR):

 

Yikes. Jayson Werth, who had been pretty bad when healthy, leads the pack. After him, it’s a cavalcade of names we know for their franchise-player tags, including a quite conspicuous Robinson Cano. This is not necessarily a list you want to be a part of right now, or at any time. Here is a table with the results:

NAME

2015 Salary (through 6/26)

Salary WAR

WAR

$/WIN

Surplus WAR

Jayson Werth

$9,707,143.05

1.29

-0.6

-$16,178,571.75

-1.9

Joe Mauer

$10,350,000.00

1.38

-0.4

-$25,875,000.00

-1.8

Matt Kemp

$9,562,500.00

1.28

-0.5

-$19,125,000.00

-1.8

Chase Utley

$4,500,000.00

0.60

-1.1

-$4,090,909.09

-1.7

Alexei Ramirez

$4,500,000.00

0.60

-1.0

-$4,500,000.00

-1.6

Robinson Cano

$10,800,000.00

1.44

-0.1

-$108,000,000.00

-1.5

Victor Martinez

$6,300,000.00

0.84

-0.7

-$9,000,000.00

-1.5

Ryan Zimmerman

$6,300,000.00

0.84

-0.7

-$9,000,000.00

-1.5

Nick Swisher

$6,750,000.00

0.90

-0.6

-$11,250,000.00

-1.5

Hanley Ramirez

$8,887,500.00

1.19

-0.3

-$29,625,000.00

-1.5

Matt Joyce

$2,137,500.00

0.29

-1.2

-$1,781,250.00

-1.5

Melky Cabrera

$5,850,000.00

0.78

-0.7

-$8,357,142.86

-1.5

Ryan Howard

$11,250,000.00

1.50

0.1

$112,500,000.00

-1.4

Pablo Sandoval

$7,920,000.00

1.06

-0.3

-$26,400,000.00

-1.4

Carl Crawford

$9,610,714.35

1.28

 0

-

-1.3

Michael Morse

$3,375,000.00

0.45

-0.8

-$4,218,750.00

-1.3

Aaron Hill

$5,400,000.00

0.72

-0.5

-$10,800,000.00

-1.2

Elvis Andrus

$6,862,500.00

0.92

-0.3

-$22,875,000.00

-1.2

Drew Stubbs

$2,621,250.00

0.35

-0.8

-$3,276,562.50

-1.1

Starlin Castro

$3,085,714.35

0.41

-0.7

-$4,408,163.36

-1.1

Finally, let’s look at the best values by Average Annual Value of contracts. This might take away a little of the bias for this year when it comes to backloaded contracts, and give us a more steady idea of who might be performing, given the entire life of his contract. Again, much like the first chart, we’ll compare overall WAR to surplus WAR, except surplus WAR is now calculated using AAV, instead of 2015 contracts alone:

That’s a little more even in terms of overall contracts, and elevates the players with more reasonable, even contracts. At this point, you might be wondering, what happened to A-Rod? Well, I’ll give you the good news: he’s actually outperforming his contract this year, given AAV. With 2.2 WAR currently, and only 1.65 salary WAR, he’s carrying a nice .55 of surplus WAR. That might change as the year goes on, but it’s interesting to think about A-Rod actually being worth more than his contract is giving him (given the current free-agent value of a win, of course) almost midway through his age-39 season. Next week we’ll look at the same sort of data for pitchers, to see who has been worth more (and less) than their contract this season.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/the-best-bargains-of-the-season-so-far/

 

“‘Is it going to allow this player to maximize his abilities on the field and allow him to make good decisions off the field?'"

 

June 27, 2015

WHAT BASEBALL CAN LEARN FROM GOOGLE

   

By Carlos Portocarrero

We've heard it countless times: baseball is a game of adjustments. Regardless of how talented a player is, he's going to have to adjust at the big-league level if he wants to remain successful. Take Anthony Rizzo, for example. In 2012 he tasted his first bit of success in the Major Leagues. The following year was rough, and his terrible average against lefties was a part of that. So what did he do? He worked on it and prioritized fixing it. Over the past two years he's hitting over .300 against lefties -- Rizzo turned a weakness into a strength and went from being a good player to being a great player.

Contrast that with a guy like Corey Patterson. Like Rizzo, Patterson was a heavily touted prospect coming up through the minors. He was a five-tool player capable of doing whatever he wanted on the field. In 2003, it looked like he had it figured out (.298/.329/.511) until he hurt his knee and missed the second half of the season. He was only 23 years old, but that half season in 2003 would mark the high point of what would become a rather mediocre career. Major League pitchers feasted on Patterson's inability to control the strike zone and his propensity to think of himself as a power hitter instead of a guy who should leverage his tremendous speed.

Patterson is currently 35 years old, out of baseball, and he'll likely only be remembered for the huge disappointment he was for Cubs fans.

What makes a player like Rizzo able to make adjustments, while a guy like Patterson struggles to simply stay in the pros despite his amazing natural talents? Is there something in each player's personality or "makeup" that separates the two? If so, how can teams quantify that difference when it comes to evaluating players to help them pick "the right" player in the future?

As with most things, Google has an answer. Not through a search, but in the way the company's human resources department hires and evaluates talent.

I recently read Work Rules! by Lazslo Bock, the SVP of people operations at Google, and he gives some insight into how Google evaluates potential hires. It's a fascinating look at how a company -- whose entire business model is based on its ability to sort and organize massive quantities of information -- is able to filter through the noise.

Google attempts to objectively quantify each candidate by scoring them on certain traits during the interview process. In much the same way baseball teams rate a player's tools, Google measures each candidate by four attributes:

• Cognitive ability (smarts)
• Leadership
• Googleyness
• Role-related knowledge

Let's call Googleyness the "special sauce" of succeeding at Google, and that's what they're looking for in the interview process. By looking at the data of performance reviews in the company, they learned that a successful employee at Google is humble, comfortable with ambiguity, likes to have fun and has interesting/unique paths that they've taken in life. I want to stress again that this is Google we're talking about, so they're quantifying all of this and making it a data-processing decision, not a subjective, "I think he should be hired because I got a good vibe" decision.

In baseball, is there anything we can point to that will help predict which talented players will become productive major leaguers and which ones won't? What about that ability to adjust? How do we separate the Pattersons from the Rizzos?

What if a team could somehow incorporate that measurement into the way they rank every amateur player available in the Draft? Every major leaguer they're considering trading for? Every free agent who could potentially help the team win? There would be a tremendous amount of value there.

But while we're ranking players on something as ambiguous as "adjustability," let's go ahead and try to rank them on other traits like mental toughness, ability to overcome obstacles (Jon Lester fighting and beating cancer comes to mind), and likability.

I'm not a sociologist, nor do I work in HR, but you would need to hire some super smart people to ensure you're measuring the right things and adjust accordingly.

Here are a few holes in this approach:

• Prospects aren't ready-made products. They will grow and mature and learn a lot of this after you've drafted them, so it'll be hard to identify adjustability when you're evaluating an 18-year-old high-school player.
• International players might be difficult to evaluate through this method unless one is intimately familiar with the cultures they're coming from.
• Variability: Some scouts will suck at gauging one skill over another. Some scouts will fall in love with a tool and unconsciously favor that player in all the rankings they give him.

But the elegance of a system like this isn't in what we get out of it right away, it's what we get by adjusting over the long term. Like Google, you might discover that players who rank highly for "adjustability" tend to be great closers, so you work that into your model. Or you find out that "adjustability" has no predictive power as to how successful a player is going to be in the Majors (I would highly doubt that). The model should evolve over time based on teams discover.

Google tracks new employees for as long as they stay with the company, so they can look at their top performers and see what kinds of scores they were given during their interviews and then try to find similarly ranked employees for similar positions.

But this is likely nothing new. MLB teams have a lot of proprietary stuff going on behind the scenes that they try to keep from others, and it's likely that a system like this already exists. Jeff Luhnow and the Astros have received a lot of praise for their reliance on analytics (so good, in fact, that the Cardinals wanted to take a peek at their methods), and they seem to have something similar in place (emphasis is mine from this Bloomberg article on Luhnow and the Astros data analysis methods):

He offers the hypothetical example of a college draft prospect. "Let's say he's played two summers in a wood-bat league," [Luhnow] says. "He's got hundreds of Division I at-bats with a composite bat but against a wide variety of competition. You've got scouts' input on his potential. Your video analyst says his swing is in the top quartile of swings he's seen that lead to success in the major leagues. Your area scout says his character is in the top 10 percent of players. But he's a C-minus student. Not academic, doesn't learn well. Your doctor says he's got a slightly above-average risk of sustaining an injury. I've just given you nine pieces of information. How do you weight them? I can't do that in my mind. It's overload for any human being. But we have a thousand players on the draft board we're trying to rank in order."

Did that area scout just throw the "top 10 percent" out there off the top of his head, or does he have a systematic, consistent way of collecting and analyzing that data?

That same article talks about Collin McHugh's turnaround with the Astros:

In his first start of the season, McHugh struck out 12 batters and walked none, beating the Seattle Mariners. "He was open to [instruction]," says Stearns, "and it's led to a significant amount of success."

Before they acquired McHugh, did the Astros know that his personality was such that he would be open to instruction? Or is it hard enough to find a major-league arm that they figured they'd just try to work with him regardless?

Let's bring this back to the Cubs -- there are plenty of examples in their system that show they're paying attention to some of these subjective qualities.

Look at Chicago's last four first-round draft picks -- they all have high "makeup" scores if you read the hundreds of articles written about them. I could show you a bunch of quotes from the Cubs' front office on Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora, and Ian Happ raving about the personalities of these players. Instead I'll point you to one article (by WBP's own Sahadev Sharma) on Albert Almora because the general idea of makeup and its importance is discussed (my emphasis):

Acquiring high-end talent is the best way to go about such a task, but senior vice president of scouting and player development, Jason McLeod, says the Cubs are always looking for that little something extra that can help put a prospect over the top.

"Obviously talent plays, that's the first thing," McLeod said. "As a scout, you go in and you look for what a player physically can and can't do on the field and project that out. I think that all of us as evaluators feel that the makeup is a separator in terms of, 'Is it going to allow this player to maximize his abilities on the field and allow him to make good decisions off the field?'"

Looking backwards, it's easy to find examples of players who were able to make adjustments and become successful. It's also easy to find examples of talented players who just couldn't hack it. Take this Nelson Cruz/Wily Mo Pena comparison:

Naturally, much of the credit goes to Cruz, who's coachable, persistent, smart, and athletic, a mixture of makeup and physical skill that allowed him to adjust in a way that a set-in-his-ways slugger like Wily Mo Pena wouldn't.

I don't know what kind of secret sabermetric stats the Cubs keep on the inside of the organization, but if it's anything like Google, then what they have is another layer of information that should help them stockpile players who are more likely to contribute in the big leagues than not.

That's a huge advantage -- for now. Once all teams catch up and start evaluating and ranking on this type of thing, the Cubs will have to search for some other edge to help gain an advantage.

After all, baseball is a game of adjustments. Whoever fails to adjust will have a tough time putting together a competitive team.

http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/133129006/mlb-analytics-cubs-google-hiring-methods

 

 

"It's important to have good players, but it's also important to not have *bad* players. "

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF NOT HAVING BAD PLAYERS 

Jeff Sullivan

Think you could be a general manager? I think, in the beginning, a lot of people think they could do the job. Then, later on, they come to learn of the complexity, and fewer remain so confident. Being a general manager is incredibly difficult, support staff be damned. But I've got a hot tip for you -- every front office out there has the same strategy. I don't know if it could be any simpler. The strategy of all 30 teams in major-league baseball:


 

  • get good players

It's that easy. There's no disagreement over the strategy. The separator tends to be player evaluation. Which players are good? Which players will remain good? Which players will be the most good? The teams that have the most good players tend to be the strongest teams. You might not know why you bothered to read these paragraphs.

When it comes to team-building, so much of the emphasis is on accumulating as many good players as possible. And that's good, that's important, because that's the biggest key to winning games. But there's another side of this, one that tends to get ignored. It's important to have good players, but it's also important to not have *bad* players. That might seem like saying the same thing. They're related, but they aren't identical.

For example, let's consider two hypothetical mini-teams. Team A has three players. Two of those players are both +4. The third player is 0. Team B also has three players. Two of those players are both +4. The third player is -1. Of Team A and Team B, you could say each has a pair of good players. But Team B also has that bad player, relative to Team A's 0. So by this simple math, Team A comes out at +8, and Team B comes out at +7. The good players are critical, but a bad player still made a difference.

Reality isn't quite that clean, in that teams are much bigger and we don't have perfect measures of performance, but we do have Wins Above Replacement, or WAR. So for the sake of this example, let's trust those 2015 WAR figures. It's pretty easy to navigate over to FanGraphs and figure out which teams have generated the most and the least total WAR. It's tougher to break that down. How much of that WAR is coming from good players, and how much negative WAR is coming from bad players? It's the latter I'm going to focus on here -- enough attention is already paid to the good-player side of the equation.

You're going to see a table below, of all 30 teams, and 2015 negative WAR totals. The thing about WAR is it comes with a really convenient baseline, the level of performance expected from a so-called replacement-level player. Ideally, no playing time ever goes to guys who aren't at least replacement-level, but we don't live in an ideal world, as you can just ask the Phillies. So I've gone through all the 2015 data, and I've found all the players with a WAR below 0, and I've sorted them by team. Then it was just adding up numbers.

Some of this is about depth. Some of this is about not needing depth. Some of this is luck. But the general idea is a simple one: Which teams have gotten the most negative performances, from players they've played? And which teams have spent the least time putting up with subpar performances?

Team

Negative WAR

Astros

-1.0

Blue Jays

-1.1

Yankees

-1.2

Royals

-1.4

Cardinals

-1.6

Orioles

-1.6

Dodgers

-1.8

Mets

-2.0

Pirates

-2.7

Angels

-2.8

Nationals

-2.9

Brewers

-3.1

Giants

-3.1

Diamondbacks

-3.2

Cubs

-3.3

Rangers

-3.4

Padres

-3.5

Indians

-3.6

Athletics

-3.7

Red Sox

-3.8

Reds

-3.9

Marlins

-4.2

Rays

-4.4

Braves

-5.0

Mariners

-5.1

Tigers

-5.2

Twins

-5.3

Rockies

-5.9

White Sox

-6.2

Phillies

-6.6

Maybe that doesn't seem like much of a spread to you, but remember that the units here are wins, full wins, and we're not even to the halfway point of the season. The average is -3.4, meaning at the top you've got an advantage of more than two wins, and at the bottom a deficit of three wins. Not that the Phillies should really count as evidence of anything -- they were never going to be competitive -- but we can examine the non-Phillies results.

And what's most interesting to me are the Astros. They might be the best example of the concept. By negative WAR, or really by avoiding negative WAR, the Astros rank No. 1 in baseball. By positive WAR, they're No. 15, right in the middle of the pack. Obviously, the good players are important, but the Astros have also gotten a lift from the bottom. They haven't had bad players bringing them down. They've been at least adequate all over the place, and when they've needed help, they've been able to dig in the system.

The Astros have had surface-level ability, and depth. There's Hank Conger, behind Jason Castro. There's been Carlos Correa, behind Marwin Gonzalez, behind Jed Lowrie. Preston Tucker has done an admirable job after being pressed into service. Domingo Santana has come up. Lance McCullers has been outstanding in the rotation. Vincent Velasquez seems to be at least adequate. And so on. The bullpen's deep. There are still players on the farm. By negative WAR, the Astros are separated from the Angels by two wins. From the A's by three wins. From the Rangers by somewhere in between.

And funny enough, when I looked at this same thing last October, examining the 2012-2014 window, the Astros came in dead last. Which means in a way, this happened quickly. The Astros had to put up with a lot of crap, but they've suddenly arrived, and they've arrived with depth to support a more-than-adequate front line. I wouldn't quite call them "complete," but they aren't far away.

Right behind the Astros are the Blue Jays and Yankees, who have been modest surprises. I don't mean to just skip over them, so, let's all take a moment. Great. But now we have to move on, because I can't keep writing forever. I wanted to highlight the Royals, in fourth. Right now, the Royals lead the Twins by 3.5 games in the AL Central. They lead the Tigers by 6 games. Just by avoiding negative WAR, the Royals have given themselves a four-game advantage over both of those rivals. By positive WAR, the Tigers and Royals are nearly even.

The Royals might not really be a team full of All-Stars, but they have been mostly a team full of at least adequate players. Rare has been the instance that the Royals have put up with a player actively dragging them down. It's a type of strength, avoiding weakness. Granted, in the Tigers' case, a contributor here has been the awful performance from Victor Martinez. That presumably has had to do with injury, and it's not like they could easily sit Martinez down. But it still informs the point. It's not just that Martinez hasn't been good. It's that he's been bad, and the Tigers have played him. So they ended up in a situation the Royals didn't face.

There are eight different teams with no more than 2 negative WAR. And there are seven different teams with at least 5 negative WAR. Three of them have been intending to compete, and this helps explain why they've been disappointments. The Mariners have gotten a lot of bad contributions from seemingly decent players. The Tigers' strength is more about front-line players, not depth. And the White Sox just seemed like an incomplete team. They have an excellent core, but almost nothing around it, and this is what can happen. The White Sox would be in the race, if the negatives were just less negative. Instead, they're going to have to regroup.

Don't take this to mean more than it does. Ultimately, the most important thing is assembling a group of good players. But they can't all be good players. And when the good players run out, you want to be able to avoid having to play the bad ones. Some of that is just going to be up to luck, but some of that, you can prepare for. There's no such thing as being too prepared.

http://www.foxsports.com/mlb/just-a-bit-outside/story/houston-astros-kansas-city-royals-negative-war-bad-players-roster-depth-062615

 

‘“the right way” comes down to one thing: a choice.’

The Heat of the Moment

JUN 25 2015

PHOTOS BY AP IMAGES 

WILLIAM GAY

CONTRIBUTOR

When I was just seven years old, my mother was killed as a result of domestic violence.

Domestic violence is an issue I care about deeply. But while caring about it is important, doing something about it is an obligation. With the platform my profession affords me, I know I am in a position to speak out — and be heard. And I want to make the most of it.

Part of “making the most of it” for me is speaking out against domestic violence in a way that gets through to people. There is being heard, and then there is being heard.

When I hear the dialogue that goes on around the issue of domestic violence, one of the running themes that comes up is the idea that it is situational. That scenarios dictate domestic violence. That if you want to avoid domestic violence, you simply have to avoid those situations. This thinking bothers me.

What bothers me about it is that it shifts blame away from the abuser. And that is wrong. Because ultimately, domestic violence comes down to one thing: a choice. And that choice belongs to the potential abuser: to be violent, or to not be. There is always a choice.

When I say this to people, they nod and agree. But I can always tell that, deep down, some of them don’t quite believe me. I can tell they’re thinking, Easier said than done. They’re thinking, That’s nice to say now, but in the heat of the moment, you just never know. And I tell them, Actually, no — I do know.

Let me tell you about “the heat of the moment.”

I was a sophomore at Louisville, and my girlfriend at the time had come up to visit. It was the preseason and I had morning drills at 5 a.m. This meant going to bed early.

One night, after I had gone to bed, my girlfriend decided to go through my cell phone. She checked my text messages. One incoming text was from a girl from school asking me if she could use my computer. My girlfriend found it suspicious, so she decided to call this girl who texted me to see if there was anything going on between us.

Flash forward a few hours. I woke up in the middle of the night to commotion. I had a dog at the time, and so I figured that’s what it was. I thought, you know, maybe the dog had done something. So I went to see where my dog was, just to make sure. And as I walked past the living room, a smell washed over me from the dog’s cage — you know the smell. Knowing my girlfriend didn’t even like dogs, I thought to myself, Okay, well, I better just clean this up.

Domestic violence comes down to one thing: a choice. And that choice belongs to the potential abuser: to be violent, or to not be.

And it was only then, on my way to get cleaning supplies, that I realized there was someone else in the house: There was my girlfriend, and there was the girl from school who had texted me. I asked what was going on.

The girl from school was like, “No, don’t get it messed up. I told your girlfriend everything.” I immediately asked her to leave, and then I looked at my girlfriend, and I was just like, “Look. I have to go to practice soon. I can’t deal with this right now. We’ll talk in the morning.”

I went to my 5 a.m. practice and I came back around 8 a.m and told my girlfriend, simply, that she had to go.

She insisted that she wasn’t leaving. She started crying. Pushing on me. Saying, “What you gonna do?” while starting to hit me.

And so I screamed for my roommate. I said, “Coby, come help me.” And the first thing he said was, “William, don’t hit her.” And I told him, “No, I’m not trying to touch her. I don’t want to touch her. I just need help getting out of here.”

We ended up calling the police, and I went outside, as far away from the situation as possible, to wait. When the police arrived, I told the officer the truth: that there was a person in my house whom I wanted out of there, and that I wanted that to happen without a physical altercation.

The officer gave me one look, and shot back, “Where’s the young lady?” He was thinking that she was the one who needed help. I explained that I was the one who called for the police, and the officer responded, “Well, I’ll let her tell me. I want to hear the other side of the story before I believe that.”

When I tell you to walk away — when I tell you that you have a choice — you know I’m not just saying it. I’ve lived it.

On one level, it was frustrating for me that the officer didn’t believe me. But on another level, I thought about it, and I was like, “You know what, do your job. I know it doesn’t look typical. And I know that usually a call like this is the other way around. But I’ll let you do your job.” And then the officer went inside, my girlfriend admitted what had happened and they realized and understood that I hadn’t done anything, and that — like I was saying — this was a situation where I was trying to avoid an altercation, not initiate one.

The police told my girlfriend that she had to leave. She left, and that was that.

When I finish telling that story, I can always tell it has made an impact on those who hear it. I use it as a reminder to let the people I’m trying to educate about domestic violence know that when I speak on these issues, I’m not just speaking because of my mother’s story. I’m speaking because I was faced with a situation myself, and I was able to walk away from it. So when I tell you to walk away — when I tell you that you have a choice — you know I’m not just saying it. I’ve lived it.

 

But here’s the thing about choices, and the thing I like to emphasize: It could have gone the other way. A lot of times, situations exactly like the one I was in do go the other way, which is why it’s so important to hear from someone with firsthand experience that it’s easier to walk away. It’s easier and it’s less painful. And while that message may be difficult to understand in the abstract, I think it’s much more relatable when I am able to convey it with an example. And not just any example. My own. Like I said, I’ve lived it.

Once you establish to these guys that there’s a way out — that there’s a concrete alternative — there can be no more excuses. Not that there are ever excuses, but when you make it that explicit, it just becomes easier to conceptualize. I can say, “I can prove it.”

Anything I can do to help, I want to do. I hope that my story can open a lot of eyes. I hope that someone out there will read this story and that my message will register with them. And I hope that if they ever find themselves in a bad situation, they will think back to my situation and respond in the right way.

Above all else, I hope they will remember that “the right way” comes down to one thing: a choice.

William Gay has teamed up with HopeLine® from Verizon to motivate people across the nation to take action against domestic violence. Together, Verizon and William are working toward a goal of one million phone donations by the end of 2015.

http://www.theplayerstribune.com/william-gay-domestic-violence-nfl/